#FreeKhalil: Awawdeh repeats just one word, “Freedom” as he faces severe health crisis

Palestinian prisoner Khalil Awawdeh, on his 162nd day of hunger strike against his administrative detention without charge or trial, has suffered a severe deterioration in his health. He was moved to Assaf Harofeh civilian hospital on Thursday, 11 August — as always, with the threat that if he does not accept treatment, he will be returned to the infamous Ramle prison clinic. His lawyers and family members said that he experienced sudden and severe cognitive decline and is at risk of death at any moment.

Ahlam Haddad, Awawdeh’s lawyer, told Palestinian media that he had prepared a message for her: “I went on strike for freedom, and I have sacrificed a lot for the dearest and strongest need, freedom…My abstinence from food is not a rejection of life, but rather a rejection of chains.” She said that he was unable to say the name of his four daughters and says only one word, “freedom.” Haddad was able to view Awawdeh in the hospital today for a medical report following the latest hearing of the Israeli occupation courts in his case yesterday. Despite the severity of Awawdeh’s condition, the court is not scheduled to reconvene or hear the medical evidence until Sunday, 14 August.

Awawdeh, 40, from Idna near al-Khalil, is on hunger strike to bring an end to his imprisonment without charge or trial under Israeli “administrative detention.” He is married and the father of four daughters. He briefly stopped his strike on the 111th day, when he was told an agreement had been reached to secure his release. Instead of releasing him, however, the occupation forces instead extended his detention, and he re-launched his hunger strike. Throughout the strike, he has been completely denied family visits and routinely denied legal visits. He is transferred back and forth repeatedly between the notorious Ramleh prison clinic and Israeli civilian hospitals. This dire situation is why his release has become a central demand of the Palestinian resistance.

The Israeli occupation has repeatedly attempted to evade its commitments to the resistance, as promised by Egyptian mediators, to release Awawdeh to a hospital and free Bassam al-Saadi, in the ceasefire in the Battle of Unity of the Fronts on Sunday, 7 August. He has not been visited by his family or by the International Committee of the Red Cross, as confirmed by Muhjat al-Quds, even as his family fear that they await the news of his death at any moment.

Currently, around 650 Palestinians are jailed without charge or trial under these indefinitely renewable orders, out of approximately 4,650 Palestinian political prisoners in total. The Palestinian prisoners’ movement has identified ending administrative detention as a principal goal towards the liberation of all Palestinian prisoners. There is a current battle escalating in Ofer prison to challenge administrative detention, including the order against Palestinian leader and journalist Nidal Abu Aker. Administrative detention orders were first introduced to Palestine by the British colonial mandate and are routinely used by the Israeli regime to imprison Palestinian community leaders and influential figures, especially when they are unable to extract a confession under torture.

The Israeli occupation regime and the Egyptian state — which is complicit in the blockade of Gaza for over 15 years and normalizes with the occupier — cannot be trusted, and all of our vigilance must continue to ensure the liberation of Awawdeh and al-Saadi, the achievements of the Palestinian resistance gained through selfless struggle and deep sacrifice.

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network urges all to organize, speak out, protest and demand the immediate release of Khalil Awawdeh, Bassam al-Saadi and all Palestinian prisoners in Israeli occupation prisons. As you organize demonstrations and actions against the Israeli massacres in Gaza and the assassination of resistance strugglers in Nablus, please carry the call for the immediate release of Khalil Awawdeh and his fellow imprisoned Palestinians.

Khalil Awawdeh is confronting the Zionist occupation forces with his body and life on the line. We urge action to free Awawdeh and all Palestinian prisoners struggling for freedom, for themselves and for Palestine and its people, from the river to the sea.

A note on the strike dates of Khalil Awawdeh: Some media sites report that this is the 162nd day of Khalil Awawdeh’s strike while others report it as the 152nd day. By saying 162 days, we are following the lead of Awawdeh’s family and loved ones, who do not recognize and cannot confirm the interruption in his hunger strike when he was told an agreement had been reached for his release on 21 June. Both of these are valid dates and both emphasize the importance of urging his freedom. Notably, his family never confirmed a suspension or end of his hunger strike at that time. Instead, his administrative detention was extended and he officially reported resuming his strike to his lawyer on 2 July.

Download these distributable flyers and posters to highlight the case of Khalil Awawdeh and the struggle to free Palestinian prisoners:

1. Mobilize actions, demonstrations and creative interventions – Take to the streets to defend the Palestinian people and their resistance! As was made clear during the Unity Intifada/Seif al-Quds in May 2021, there is a vast depth of support for the Palestinian people everywhere around the world, including inside the imperialist powers. It is our responsibility to act and make it impossible to continue their support for the crimes against the Palestinian people.

2. Build the boycott of Israel – This is a critical moment to escalate the campaign to isolate the Israeli regime at all levels, including through boycott campaigns that target the occupation’s economic exploitation of the Palestinian land, people and resources as well as those international corporations, like HP and G4S, that profit from the ongoing colonization of Palestine.

3. Support the steadfastness of the Palestinian people – This aggression was an extension of the siege on Gaza that has been imposed on the resisting and steadfast Strip for over 15 years. The Palestinian people need economic, political and all forms of support to help sustain their steadfastness. To contribute to Samidoun’s drive in support of children’s health care in Gaza, make a donation at https://samidoun.net/gaza